Nearly 200,000 claimants have received $6.3 billion - part of the $20 billion that the oil giant committed to make good on damage from the Deepwater Horizon accident. It's called the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, and by many accounts it's working just fine - an efficient way to disperse money to victims of the spill without going to court (BP has conceded liability). But the system squeezes out plaintiffs attorneys - more to the point, plaintiff attorneys' fees. NYT columnist Joe Nocera picks it up from there:
They went to the federal judge handling the BP litigation and asked him to establish a "reserve" that would be made up of 6 percent of any future claims settled by [Claims Facility head Ken] Feinberg. (They also want 4 percent from any damages Alabama and Louisiana get.) The judge, Carl Barbier -- a former plaintiffs' lawyer himself -- agreed to do so without even holding a hearing. Eventually, some or all of that reserve would be used to pay the lawyers. That's right: They are trying to grab fees from clients they've never represented. Amazing. (Judge Barbier recently backed away a bit from his ruling and is allowing both sides to file briefs that are due on Thursday.) When I asked how they could possibly justify this fee grab, I was told that their lawsuit was the main reason Feinberg was willing to be so generous with BP's money. But Tony Buzbee, another lawyer who has settled many claims through the fund, blew a gasket when I told him that. "They have not done one thing so far that has benefited my clients," he said.